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end of the career path?

This week, my dad finally retired. He’s been counting the days for years. His birthday – the “official” retirement date – came and went. Just a few more months. The second retirement date came and went. As did the third. So, here we are 9 months on and he’s finally hanging up his business cards, email signature and logo embossed diary. Well, until that exhibition in a few months time. Well, it’s good to stay busy 🙂

I was also reminded of this here, which I’ve seen used at a number of universities and business schools to help their students come to the realisation that career paths are no longer linear or for life necessarily.

Lets look back over time…….with a sweeping stereotype of the many generations in today’s workplace.

Post World War 2, we had the baby boomers. A generation brought up by those who’d experienced a seriously tough time at home and aboard, had learned to manage meals, clothing and entertainment on a shoestring of rations and home made/grown produce. Baby boomers went to work to climb the ladder, to be breadwinners and to succeed in providing more comfortable lives for their families. Here is where our view of the career path being straight and narrow came from.

Their children became known as “Generation X” (ok, so having a best selling book titled that helped), who were taught hand work matters, achievements count and do your best in all things. They lived through a time of strong trade unions, angry strikes and periods of redundancy – they learned jobs were often insecure and your staying power was based on your efforts and your relationships. Generation Xers often found the “up and out” mentality unappealing and began midlife career switches to lateral career paths.

At the end of the 70s, Gen Ys began being born. Few remember the 80s workforce dramas, but clearly remember being latchkey kids with working dads and mums. They learned work and life didn’t balance out and that TVs would be their friend. Gen Ys look for more instant feedback and gratification in the workplace (older generations might say they’re attention seeking) and will leave if the hours put in aren’t recognised nor deliver the value to make their work/life balance. Career paths are managed by SMART objectives and promotion centres.

Gen Z or the Millennials follow on and bring in technologic skills galore, yet sometime struggle with interpersonal face to face situations. Short comms on messaging systems replace emails and task chunking key to success. With lower risk thresholds, more millennial are content to look around, move firms, roles and countries to find work they enjoy. Gamification becomes the new HR buzz word in how to develop and grow these employees in an attempt to keep millennials engaged and from resigning.

OK, so I’m not one for stereotypes and do recognise I’ve painted a blinkered view on each generation to highlight a little of their career paths to date.

What I believe is that there are commonalities across generational groups, but there are also exceptions to all rules and individuals within the groups. Phew. Without them, we’d have missed out on quite a lot and there is often a golden thread that runs through their work from school to retirement (possibly beyond too into volunteering or philanthropy).

Take me as an example. I began working in an old people’s home as a general helper. Then I worked as a aircraft design engineer in Germany. Back in the UK, my next job was in the charity sector with a membership organisation, before moving to a people development role in the healthcare sector. Back overseas to Gibraltar, I joined the HR team of a betting company. Heading to London, I lead a staff development function in an inner city college. All before finding a home in people development in consultancy firms. Now I run my own business, helping you stretch your life – as your coach, trainer or Pilates instructor: 3 strong passions of mine and often found blended together to give you what you need.

Who knows what will come next!? What I am sure of it will involve my common thread: people, purpose and passionate energy. I know there is no single path for me and that it will involved plot twists, successes and fails. I’m excited to keep walking it.

Do you know what your common thread is? Or where it will take you next? Let me know if you do or if you don’t, as I’d love to help you move forward into achieving the next step on your path.

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